Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ideal Woman

I think this post is geared toward American women, but this might be a world-wide thing. I'm really not sure. I can speak only to my culture.

But if you're an American woman, have you ever felt not pretty enough? I mean, you've seen the ideal of beauty; blonde, blue eyes, taller, thin, flat stomach, perky boobs, small nose, no freckles, hair that waves perfectly but isn't frizzy or stringy, high cheek bones, smaller forehead, small ears, narrow shoulders but not sloping shoulders. It's pretty specific and pretty hard to maintain. And even if that ideal SOMETIMES has a brunette with sparkly brown eyes or hazel eyes, it's still the same body type. If you notice, if you see a black woman or Asian woman, her features are often more as I've listed above. The ideal, when it stretches to include other races, can never be TOO ethnic looking. Eyes that are too slanty don't work, they have to be more almond shaped and open. A big, high forehead isn't ideal, the hairline needs to be lower. It's quantifiable.

I grew up, seeing this ideal and knowing that I almost matched it. I'm naturally blonde, fair, small features, blue eyes...but I'm CHUBBY! I broke the mold when I ended up short and fat. So I fell out of the ideal of beauty!


Africa


Africa


Africa

But have you ever wondered where it came from? Adam and I went to the Cleveland Art Museum in January and I recorded a TON of images of the ideal woman. I mean, a TON! These statues and paintings I have are either goddesses or some form of the Virgin Mary (the ultimate woman for most European cultures). If the woman isn't a goddess or the Virgin Mary, it's a woman that was considered ideal. How do I know this? It says right on the blurbs next to them! The women I'm featuring come from all over the planet and are whatever was considered the ideal, the most beautiful, for that culture.


European Virgin Mary


European Virgin Mary


European Virgin Mary


European Virgin Mary


European Virgin Mary

Y'all, it was an EDUCATION. What if I had come from a culture that wasn't based in European history? What if I came from a culture where fertile, round women were considered ideal? What if I came from a culture where shaping the body is ideal? What if Hollywood's idea of beauty stemmed from these? Can you imagine how different our standard of beauty would be?

Now, when I collected these, I took notes on the location, but I lost it. I'm gonna try to remember and tell you where. But even if I don't, please take time to really look at the images and consider how they differ from the current ideal in American culture. It's really interesting, and I really hope it opens your eyes and your minds to what beauty can be...and maybe you learn a little something? That would be so cool!


India


China


India

What really struck me is the differences in body types. All the European ones were thin. To be fair, the China one had thin girls around it. I photographed the chubby one because it was cool to me that there was a trio with different body types. Many of the African cultures molded their bodies to fit a certain ideal, including shaping the skull. (The final one on the bottom was also a skull-shaping culture.) The Indian goddesses all have these awesome bodies with great curves, big boobs, strong thighs. They are my faves, I think! The South American women also seem to have sturdy bodies, so capable of DOING...versus the European culture of women lying around so much.


South America


South America (I think)


Unsure

I look at all these women, and I see so many differences in them and so much beauty. I wish that I lived in a culture where true diversity was celebrated more. I feel ashamed when I think of someone as "ugly," because I know that's my own enculturation at work. Going through the Cleveland Art Museum and searching out these ideal women was so fun. I didn't plan on doing it. My mind just noticed these things and after photographing a few, I kept going until I'd gone through all the cultures. There is so much out there in the world, so many differences among us, and it saddens me that a culture such as America; built on freedom and even escape for so many people, has narrowed our definition down to such a small number of people. It's a shame, really. So I wanted to put this out there for us to look at it and see all the differences...especially for those of you who might not live very close to such a fantastic museum with so much art and history! I really hope you've enjoyed this and I hope it's opened your eyes some.

Pierced Wonderings

8 comments:

  1. This was truly insightful! I think America's view of beauty is too narrow. Too many girls out here are killing themselves trying to get a Kim K booty, bigger boobs and the list goes on. In Jamaica (my home) we celebrate curvy bodies! Your weight is an association of your wealth. Truly enjoyed reading this! My bf lives in Ohio I told him I want him to take me to check this spot out.

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    1. You're come Jamaica?!? That's so cool! Let's go sometime so you can show me around!

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  2. This is such a great post with such a great point!! Beauty isn't a teeeeeeny box where 5 women can fit inside.

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    1. Yep, totally. It was just suddenly interesting to me, surrounded by historical representation of dieties and ideal women. I think it's easy to say we need more diversity but hard to find it. Here's a great example of some diversity, right in your face!

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  3. It really is interesting to me to see how other cultures have viewed beauty. I remember going on a date with a man from Kenya, and he told me - paying me a compliment, which was totally awkward at the time - that where he was from, his father would have to offer 20 cows for me if we were to marry.

    The thing that strikes me most is that this whole beauty thing is something we women perpetuate. I've never had a man not think I was beautiful, even though I certainly fall outside of the standard. I've had men try to use my weight as a way to hurt me, but that was their retort in a debate/argument so it never phased me. Every man who has been in a relationship with me or wanted to be in a relationship with me has never made me feel anything less than gorgeous.

    I suppose for me the question becomes if that's truly the case - if so many of us are unhappy with these standards of beauty, why are we the ones who make them so pervasive in our lives?

    Thanks for making me think this morning (there is no way I would have been able to reply to this last night lol!) and thanks for joining us for Photo Friday!

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    1. While I do agree that the beauty myth is perpetuated by women, it's also totally perpetuated by men. It's nice that you've never had a man with whom you were in a relationship make you feel as if your body wasn't enough, but plenty of women had. Also, the beauty ideals perpetrated in mainstream media are not the creations of women. I do agree that women can do a lot to change these ideas, but it's not a woman-only problem.

      I'm also glad that I gave you something to think about! Thinking is fun and good!

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  4. Here in Australia I think our ideal is more beach babe then American beauty, which I guess means a bit sportier and you can have beach hair, hahaha, But not in the office, we're probably far more American there.
    However, the way I have viewed the Virgin Mary is also probably culturally different. I've always seen her as being swathed in loose clothing to hide all her sexuality and femininity, which is unseemly in a religious setting. Whereas Ruben painted women with curves and bellies, google rubenesque and you get beautiful women that are anything but the ideal body shape of the day, however it was perfection itself during the renaissance.
    Your Mary images all seem to be from late Medieval to early Renaissance, a transitional time for the ideal figure from somewhat willowy and delicate silhouette to a more robust and luscious figure, and from there turns into this completely rigid almost non--human form that we see in later periods.
    These changes are reflected in cultural changes.
    What I find really interesting is how much the ideal figure goes through changes in our Western cultures compared to other cultures where, at least from my uniformed viewpoint, seems to have remained fairly static over the centuries.

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    1. You're probably right about the timeline. Mary has always worn robes, even in American representations...but I've never seen that as hiding her sexuality so much as that's what people wore.

      This wasn't a planned out project with a ton of research. This was just about my visiting the art museum and making some observations and deciding to record them.

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